A Guide to the Cutleaf European Birch

Tag Number: 509-512

Scientific Name: Betula pendula

Betula is derived from the Sanskrit bhurja, meaning "to shine" in reference to the bark. Hanging is the meaning of pendula.

Common Names


Although not native to North America, it was introduced from Europe and currently grows naturally in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. It is a popular ornamental tree in all regions. It grows easily in old fields, clear-cut and burnt areas--making the ground suitable for other trees to grow. Since this birch needs a lot of sunlight, it is usually overtaken by the other trees.


Leaves have jagged teeth pointing toward their tips.


: Flowers bloom in April. Seeds ripen for one month, beginning in July. Retains leaves later in the autumn than most birches.


The European Cutleaf Birch is understood as the jack-of-all-trades; it is used medicinally, mechanically, functionally, and as an edible. Its wood is often used to make paper, because it is light and durable. Chinese acupuncturists use projections from the wood to make moxa, which is used to warm specific regions of the body. Artists prize the charcoal that can be made from the bark. Its bark is also both a diuretic and a laxative. When the tough outer bark of the tree is removed, it is employed for making cups, shingles, and canoe skins. The white bark is utilized for both insect repellents and shoe polishes. Interestingly, an essential oil made from white bark extracts has been used as a perfume called Russian Leather. Two oils are obtained from the inner bark. One smells of wintergreen oil; the other is used to treat skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis and to lower fevers. Thinly sliced inner bark can be used as a substitute for oiled paper. It is also used to preserve rope due to its high tannin content and the brown dye it produces. It is used during times of famine as a starch substitute to thicken soups and to make meal for use in breads. The compounds in the leaves fight germs and cholesterol. They have been claimed to dissolve kidney stones and treat gout, dropsy, and rheumatism. Further, they improve the fermentation process during composting. Juvenile branches are flexible and are resultantly used in whisks, brooms, and thatching. Buds and juvenile leaves are harvested and dried for use in teas. Its sap is also used in drinks such as beer and juices and as glue.

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